Ancient Egypt, Third Intermediate Period, 21st to 25th Dynasty, ca. 1076 to 664 BCE. A beautiful cypress wood panel comprised of four horizontal planks that were perhaps parts of a larger coffin. The panel is lined with woven linen, covered in white gesso, and painted atop the gesso is a meticulously detailed scene in vibrant hues of yellow, blue, red, teal, orange, and black. Illustrated within a semicircular archway are the sister goddesses Isis and Nephthys, wearing matching sun disks and kneeling atop offering boxes decorated in polychrome checkerboard motifs, praying to a red-and-blue djed pillar atop a third box. The djed pillar is highly symbolic of the spine and especially that of Osiris, the god of the underworld, and the two-lobed ostrich feathers on top indicate how this pillar wears the Atef crown of Osiris with a trace of one ram horn visible above the topmost djed platform. Remains of ten original dowel holes and dowels for attachment are visible on the verso. Size: 13.4" W x 8.75" H (34 cm x 22.2 cm); 9.5" H (24.1 cm) on included custom stand.
The djed pillar is one of the oldest and most symbolic images in ancient Egyptian culture, and its myriad interpretations are incredibly diverse. According to contributing writer Terence DuQuesne, "The djed pillar is one of the most important symbols of Osiris, lord of the netherworld, protector of the justified soul, and judge of the dead. Osiris is also a deity of plant fertility, and the pillar may be a schematic representation of a sacred tree, though the fact that early examples are made of ivory militates against this theory. Alternatively it could represent a pole to which sheaves of grain were attached." (Hornung, Erik and Betsy M. Bryan, eds. "The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt." National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2002, p. 111)
For a much larger example of Osiris given form as a djed pillar, please see The British Museum, museum number EA6693 (photo 3 of 31).
For another example illustrating Isis and Nephthys worshipping a djed pillar, please see Bonhams, London, New Bond Street "Antiquities" auction (May 1, 2013, lot 336W, photo #3)
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-private prominent D.K. collection, New York, USA, acquired in 2000
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Repaired across three areas of top half, with small chips and adhesive residue along break lines. Chipping and abrasions to painted gesso, linen, planks, dowels, and dowel holes, with fading and light staining to original pigment, light encrustations, and expected desiccation to wood, linen, and painted gesso commensurate with age. Great traces of iconography and original pigment throughout.